Pruning Perfection: Transform Your Garden with Expert Techniques

Pruning Perfection: Transform Your Garden with Expert Techniques

It may seem counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to give your plants the tender loving care they need is to strategically snip parts of them off when needed.

Not only is pruning an effective method for shaping plants, thinning out dense growth, and encouraging growth, but it also supports plants’ well-being.

“It really does help the overall health of the plant,” Vego Garden Horticulturist Sydney Fiene said. “Whether you're pruning dead pieces off of a tree or taking a foot of leaves off of your tomato plant, you’re improving the air circulation.”

That improved airflow minimizes the conditions favorable for mold and disease development. Plus, cutting away diseased or infected plant parts helps stop the spread of pathogens.

Even more benefits

In addition to fostering air circulation, pruning facilitates improved sunlight penetration, promoting robust photosynthesis. This helps your plants get the energy they need for optimal growth.

And the upsides of pruning don’t stop there.

Pruning enhances plants’ overall aesthetic and encourages flower and fruit production. And, it can help restore older and overgrown plants.

“We have four Peggy Martins (climbing roses) here on the Vego Garden farm,” Fiene said. “When I first started here, every single one was overgrown. Half of the leaves were yellow, and they just weren't very healthy. So, I cleaned them up. I kept them nice and full on top, but I cleaned up the edges, and now they're beautifully green. So, yes, pruning really does help revive and replenish.”

Equip yourself for success

Loppers for tree pruning | Vego Garden

Are you wondering what kind of equipment you’ll need to prune your plants? Loppers are a good tool to start with when you need to cut tree branches and thick stems.

“Loppers are long-handled shears,” Fiene explained. “You can reach higher spots with them.”

If you have branches too thick for a lopper, you can use a pruning saw with a serrated blade.

Little snippers, including pruning shears, are helpful for smaller plants. These tools look like scissors, but they’re designed to help you cut small branches, twigs, and stems.

You also can find tools designed for specific projects, like curved, long-nose shears, which can be used to create circular topiaries (shrubs or trees clipped into ornamental shapes).

Make a point of keeping your pruning equipment sharp. It will make your work easier and result in cleaner cuts, promoting faster healing and reducing the risk of infection for your plants.

It’s also worthwhile to disinfect your tools after pruning to help prevent the unintentional spread of diseases among plants. Use rubbing alcohol or a household disinfectant. 

Your pruning equipment isn’t limited to cutting tools, though. You’ll also need protective gear.

“I always recommend wearing gloves,” Fiene said. “You don't know what kind of pests or diseases you're going to touch, and you don't want to transfer that to other places. Also, some plants have thorns that can hurt you, even if they’re dead.”

Prune with purpose and care

Keep in mind, Fiene said, that you should always know what you want to achieve before you pull out your pruning tools. Have a plan for each of your plants. If you cut randomly, the results probably won’t be attractive, and you run the risk of doing more harm than good.

Along the same lines, you should put careful thought into how much of your plants you’ll be removing, taking care not to over-prune.

“One rule I have when I'm pruning any plant is not to cut any more than 30 percent of the plant at a time if you can help it,” Fiene said. “This can really cause unnecessary stress to your plant unless you're doing a complete rejuvenation pruning process where you just cut off the whole thing and hope the roots can regrow.”

One common misstep among gardeners is failing to consider the optimum time of year for pruning, which will vary by plant.

“Deciding to prune a shrub at the wrong time, for example, can result in a loss of flowers for the next season,” Fiene said. “Make sure you do your research.”

Different plants, different needs

Pruning Perfection: Nasturtiums | Vego Garden

In fact, careful research is a key part of the pruning process. That’s because while most plants benefit from pruning, the optimum approach to this task will vary extensively by plant and what you’re trying to accomplish.

“Every single plant is going to be different depending on if you're trying to shape it, thin the plant, or you’re just trying to clean it up,” Fiene said. 

We do have a few general pruning guidelines for some plant categories below. But beyond that, we encourage you to research best practices for each species of plant in your garden.

Fruit trees and berry bushes

Plan to prune these plants regularly. It will keep the plants healthy and encourage fruit production. Also, thinning out excess branches allows better sunlight penetration, promoting fruit ripening and overall tree vitality. 


Pruning Topiaries | Vego Garden

Start at the base of the plant and move up in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. This method helps maintain symmetry, creating an aesthetically pleasing appearance. Regular and precise pruning is key to preserving your topiaries’ defined shapes.


Deadheading is a productive pruning technique | Vego Garden

Watch for dead or moldy flowers. Removing them, a practice known as deadheading, not only prevents the spread of disease but also reduces the risk of pest infestations.

Leave a comment